Williams’ Alex Albon and the Haas pair of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg came to blows on the run to Turn 1, with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo also getting caught up in the melee.
Albon and Magnussen immediately retired from the race, while Piastri and Ricciardo were able to get their cars fixed under during the subsequent red flag while repairs were carried out to the heavily damaged barriers.
Onboard footage from Albon’s car showed that he was tagged by Hulkenberg, before the Williams driver connected with the other Haas of Magnussen.
Explaining the drama from his perspective, Magnussen said: “I got a really good start and then I think Albon squeezed Nico [Hulkenberg], they had contact, and that sent Albon into me like a chain reaction.”
Albon had a slightly different view, saying: “A bit of a racing incident I think.
“I had a great start; I think it was one of the strongest starts on the grid, pulled alongside the two Haas [cars], felt like we were almost there to overtake them but after looking at the external cameras, the driver on the inside was a bit blindsided, started to move across and obviously there is myself and another Haas in-between.”
He added: “I’m just frustrated as we are in a championship battle and we can’t lose out on points like that and we kind of opened up the race for others to score points.
“With all the retired cars throughout the race and many out of place with damage from the crash, we really could’ve been on for points, so it’s disappointing when the championship fight is so tight."
Hulkenberg, who was able to continue and went on to take the chequered flag in 12th, felt there was little he could do after getting “sandwiched”.
The German tried everything to back out of the incident but could do little to avoid the contact when he found himself caught in the middle of his teammate and Albon.
“It was a typical start situation where it got too tight there, and it was very similar to what happened to me in the Sprint in Qatar with Esteban [Ocon] and Checo [Perez], I got sandwiched.
"You can’t really bail out at that point, so I made contact with Albon which then put him into Kevin [Magnussen]. It was unfortunate but there wasn’t much we could do.”